Cambridge NeuroScience Inc. said Tuesday that it is cutting staff andrefocusing research activities in moves expected to reduce annualcosts by $2.5 million.

The restructuring and a pending collaboration with BoehringerIngelheim GmbH should give the Cambridge, Mass., companyenough money to take it "much further into 1996," Elkan Gamzu,Cambridge NeuroScience's president and CEO, told BioWorld.Twenty-four positions, including seven currently unfilled, are beingeliminated, leaving the company with 73 full-time employees.

"Personally, it is a very difficult thing to do," Gamzu said. "But it'san important and necessary action to take. We've made every effortto treat the employees who have left with as much dignity as ispossible under these circumstances."

The company will focus on moving forward the development of leadproduct, Cerestat, which is in Phase II trials in both stroke andtraumatic brain injury. Its research push will concentrate on definingthe potential utility of recombinant human glial growth factor 2(rhGGF2), and on expanding its ion channel blocker program toinclude additional applications, including chronic indications.

Gamzu said the company will discontinue internal development ofother early stage programs, including those in other growth factorsand proteins. Cambridge NeuroScience will retain intellectualproperty rights on all compounds, and make them available invarious collaborative or out-licensing arrangements.

Cerestat is a N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) ion channel blockerthat acts by preventing excessive entry of calcium in nerve cells.Germany-based Boehringer Ingelheim, in a deal announced earlierthis month, will pay Cambridge NeuroScience about $15 million incash and equity upon closing of the deal, which Gamzu expects toaccomplish by the end of the quarter.

He said the company has hundreds of molecules that potentially areNMDA ion channel blockers, and hundreds of others that block therelease of glutamate. "We have focused on the acute clinicalindications," Gamzu said, "and we'll continue to look at other acuteindications. We'll also broaden our horizons to chronic indications,such as Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and Alzheimer'sdisease. At the moment it's a matter of making some prudentdevelopment decisions in the acute area." He said there is no cleartimetable established for development in the chronic area.

The rhGGF2 program is Cambridge NeuroScience's furthestdeveloped in the growth factor area, and has the highest chance forsuccess, Gamzu said. Together with development in the ion area thecompany is focusing its research efforts.

"We're not just a single-product company," Gamzu said. "We'remaking sure we have potential products in our pipeline. This [ionchannels] is an area where we've been particularly successful, bothwith Cerestat and in preclinical work."

In addition to the $15 million Cambridge NeuroScience will getupon closing the Cerestat deal, the company could get another $28million in milestones. Boehringer Ingelheim will fund 75 percent ofthe development costs in the U.S. and Europe, and all of them inJapan. Cambridge NeuroScience will retain manufacturing rights,and the companies will jointly develop and promote Cerestat in theU.S.

Cambridge NeuroScience's stock (NASDAQ:CNSI) was down 6cents Tuesday, closing at $5 per share. n

-- Jim Shrine

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.